- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

President Bush yesterday shrugged off anti-war demonstrations that were staged across Europe over the weekend, saying the large size of the protests would not soften his stance on Iraq.
"It's like deciding: Well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group," Mr. Bush told reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security; in this case, the security of the people."
The president did not explicitly criticize the nearly 4 million protesters who massed in Western European cities Saturday to demand that he forgo the option of military force against Iraq.
"Democracy's a beautiful thing," Mr. Bush said. "People are allowed to express their opinion and I welcome people's right to say what they believe."
But he added: "Evidently some of the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace. I respectfully disagree."
One of the largest protests was held in Britain, America's staunchest ally against Iraq. Mr. Bush predicted that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would weather a wave of domestic criticism that has hurt his popularity at home.
"I think any time somebody shows courage when it comes to peace, that the people will eventually understand that," the president said.
"Tony Blair understands that Saddam Hussein is a risk," he added. "He is a courageous leader and I'm proud to call him friend."
Mr. Bush made clear that when it comes to disarming Saddam, inaction is not a viable alternative.
"War is my last choice, but the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I owe it to the American people to secure this country. I will do so."
Although the president reiterated his openness to another resolution against Iraq by the United Nations Security Council, he warned against giving Saddam "another, another, another last chance."
"Listen, he's a fellow that likes to buy time buy it through deception and delay," Mr. Bush said. "He believes time is on his side.
"After all, he was quoted in an Egyptian newspaper saying all he's got to do is stall and defy the world and, you know, coalitions will fall apart," he added.
On a day when the United Nations held an open debate on the question of war with Iraq, the president urged the Security Council to enforce its resolution, No. 1441, which promises "serious consequences" if Saddam does not disarm.
"I think it's very important for the United Nations to be useful as we go out into the future," he said. "And there's nothing less useful than issuing a resolution and then not upholding the resolution."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went even further, criticizing the United Nations for failing to rid Yugoslavia of President Slobodan Milosevic in 1991. Mr. Milosevic is on trial before the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for atrocities in Kosovo, among other things.
"Is the United Nations getting uncomfortable with the fact that the military mission to remove Slobodan Milosevic had to be done outside the United Nations Security Council auspices because the United Nations Security Council could not face up to the threats?" Mr. Fleischer said.
"The history in Kosovo is not a good one for the United Nations Security Council," he added. "The president hopes that won't be repeated."
To that end, the United States yesterday continued to work on a draft of a new U.N. resolution against Iraq, although it was not clear when that draft would be presented to the world body.


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